Contrary to the long-held assumption that life was slow to recover after Earth's worst mass extinction, known as Permian Period die off, the new evidence from fossils suggests that life bounced back faster from the catastrophe.
This follows the results of the fossil analysis of sharks, sea reptiles, and creatures looking like squids found near the Bear Lake area in southeast Idaho in the United States. The fossil assemblage known as Paris Biota challenges the old theory that the recovery of life after the crisis was slow and diversity skewed.
Idaho discovery indicated the existence of a vibrant marine ecosystem in the not so do distant aftermath of the ancient mass extinction. The fossil discovery showcased a diversified array of ancient animals.
The Idaho ecosystem flourished 1.3 million years later after the die-off that swept the Permian Period, 252 million years ago and wiped out 90 percent of the species.
The study has been published in Science Advances.
The Permian destruction has been massive and more catastrophic than the asteroid-led mass extinction that befell 66 million years ago and wiped out dinosaurs from the face of Earth.
Rebutting previous assumptions of a slower recovery of life after the calamity, the new study asserts that rebound of life has been rapid.
Paleontologist Arnaud Brayard of the University of Burgundy-Franche-Comte in France commented that it has been "rapid on a geological scale," while adding that the discovery was quite unexpected.
From the Idaho excavation, 30 different species of fossils were recovered reaffirming a rapid and dynamic rebound of the marine ecosystem despite the severity of extinction as a reassertion of the resiliency of life.
The Idaho ecosystem belonged to the early phase of Triassic Period where dinosaurs made their first appearance and produced many unexpected creatures including a sponge-like a creature that became extinct 200 million years ago.
From the Idaho site, the researchers also recovered bones of monster ichthyosaur, a marine reptile resembling dolphins that thrived for 160 million years.
"The Early Triassic is a complex and highly disturbed epoch, but certainly not a devastated one as commonly assumed, and this epoch has not yet yielded up all its secrets," Brayard added.
Thriving Marine Life
Evidence shows that the Idaho ecosystem hosted deadly predators such as sharks with a length of 7 feet, marine reptiles, bony fish, squid-like creatures with conical shells, coiled shells, a large-eyed crustacean with thin claws, starfish, sponges among others.
Even today, the cause of the Permian mass extinction is unknown. Some indicators, however, point to massive volcanic bursts in Siberia as the reason which spewed large amounts of greenhouse gasses and set off global warming. The changes in the chemical composition of oceans such as escalated acidification and oxygen deficiency hastened the ancient extinction.
Australian Tribute To Fossil
Meanwhile, South Australia has been hailed by famous naturalist Sir David Attenborough for choosing a wormlike creature that was featured in Life on Earth series as the new fossil emblem of the state.
South Australians voted to make the fossil their state's new emblem in an online poll.
David said the Spriggina's fame and importance made it a "very fitting" emblem.
"The Spriggina is one of the first known animals to have lived on Earth," he said.
The naturalist noted that its head and a segmented body with a rudimentary brain represented early evidence of intelligent life in the history of the planet.